Is Research An Extracurricular Activity for Medical Schools?

August 17

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The first things an admissions committee looks at to determine whether your aims and interests align with what they are looking for in a future physician are your extracurricular activities and personal statement. Theoretically, they should incorporate a few essential components like community involvement, research experience, and clinical exposure.

The admissions committee can determine whether you possess the commitment, emotional intelligence, and non-cognitive skills required to manage the rigors of medical school by looking at your extracurricular activities. 

Extracurricular activities in medical school can make you stand out from the competition and show your excellence outside of the classroom in a field where applications are highly competitive.

Like you, some medical students decide to engage in research as an extracurricular to strengthen their application to medical school. This post will answer your questions if you are wondering if research counts as an extracurricular activity for medical school.

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What are Extracurriculars for Medical School, and Why are They Important?

Almost any leisure activity that is not connected to coursework or a paid job counts as an extracurricular. This could be an activity like dancing, singing, playing sports, research, or doing community service.

An essential part of your personal statement and university application is your extracurricular activities. When it comes time to start thinking about potential university courses or medical institutions, they help you stand out from other students.

One may ask why extracurricular activities are given such significant weight in universities. In actuality, though, schools and universities have to sort through a large number of applications, some of which have applicants with comparable academic backgrounds.

An excellent method for admissions staff to get to know you, your interests, and why you would be a good fit for their school is through extracurricular activities. Your extracurricular involvement might make you stand out and demonstrate your suitability for the degree program. This is true even if the credentials and grades of the other candidate are identical.

You might be required by some universities or medical schools to take part in specific extracurricular activities, such as research or completing a set amount of volunteer work in the healthcare sector. This is to make sure you are passionate about serving others and that you are aware of the amount of labor involved.

Is Research an Extracurricular Activity for Medical Schools?


An excellent extracurricular activity to include in your application is research experience. 

Your research experience demonstrates to the admissions committee your curiosity about the unknown, enthusiasm for gaining new knowledge, and drive for discovery.

These are great qualities that you will use throughout your training in medical school. 

If you choose to enroll in MD-PhD programs, where you will be trained to become a physician-scientist and need to have a strong enthusiasm for both research and medicine, research experience is especially vital.

While becoming a lab assistant is undoubtedly a fantastic approach to get experience in the research sector, being able to conduct research yourself will give you an advantage over other applicants. 

Prospective MD PhD vs MD applicants must highlight substantial research experience in their necessary research experience essay in their AMCAS application.

Getting practical experience in testing ideas, interpreting data, writing reports, and contributing to publications will improve your application and assist you in deciding what kinds of research you would like to do.

Why is Medical Research for Medical Students Important?

Research is an essential component of your medical education and will help you throughout your whole medical career, not only in terms of getting ready for medical school applications.

For the great majority of medical schools, research experience is not a strict prerequisite, and applicants can still be accepted without any prior pre-medical research experience. 

Any kind of research experience is beneficial for medical school applications. While not all medical schools need research experience, all medical students must have some research experience by the time they graduate. 

For your reference, here are a few advantages of engaging in medical research.

1. Research Gives You a Strong Chance in Medical Schools

Research experience might not only be a prerequisite but also a great advantage and a method for you to make sure your medical school application stands out for highly competitive medical schools like Stanford Medical School or medical schools with a strong emphasis on research. 

As we have seen, applying to some extremely selective medical schools or programs that place a specific emphasis on medical research and innovation might be made more competitive if you have some research experience. 

Additionally, it is a huge benefit if you want to apply for teaching or research positions after graduating from medical school instead of going into clinical practice.

However, having research experience outside of medical school coursework can improve your residency resume or help you get accepted into fellowship programs after graduation. In the physician employment market, having some research credits under your belt might be quite advantageous.

2. Research Expands Your Medical Knowledge

In addition to equipping you with essential skills you'll need as a physician, research experience can enhance and expand your understanding of medicine. 

Researchers provide medical professionals with new insights and a deeper comprehension of the topic.

Furthermore, many clinical doctors dedicate their time to conducting or publishing research to further their careers and create new prospects. 

Research experience might help your medical school resume stand out when applying for residency and post-graduate positions. Applying for research training roles or specialty medical research jobs may necessitate it.

3. Research Prepares You in Becoming a Physician 

Despite how bizarre it may sound, conducting research helps you prepare for clinical practice when you graduate from medical school. 

Even individuals who are wondering how to get ready for their med school clinical rotations may find it useful. This is due to the fact that doctors who are still in practice may still undertake research, and organizations such as hospitals and other workplaces may even grant their doctors protected time to do so, much as medical students do.

Being a doctor involves conducting and publishing research, so getting the hang of things early in medical school will help you in your career as a practicing physician. 

In addition, your career can be gained from publishing your own study in the future. To be able to accomplish their jobs effectively, future doctors must also comprehend the methodology and findings of scientific study.

Since medical research and comprehension account for all of your medical knowledge, you must have direct experience with the research process, be able to recognize reliable research and be able to critically assess the growing body of work.

4. Research Develops Your Critical Thinking Skills

Like analyzing research papers critically, undertaking research will inevitably improve your analytical and critical thinking abilities. 

You will be required to read about, engage in, and carry out research throughout medical school, as this is the basis of your medical knowledge.

Additionally, research experience can help develop other critical medical skills including improved writing, teamwork, and communication. 

Research has also demonstrated that physicians who stay up to date on medical knowledge and research deliver overall superior treatment to their patients.

If nothing else, developing the practice of routine research and study can help you stay current and informed about the latest advancements in the medical industry.

How to Find Medical Research Opportunities as a Medical Student

Students who wish to include research experience on their resumes or applications sometimes do not know where to begin. Whether you are a graduate student, premed, or a current medical school student, getting some research experience is crucial for your career.

While there are many locations to hunt for chances, asking your contacts in your network for recommendations is one of the finest strategies. 

Professors, mentors, and advisers at your school will be able to provide you with further information about where to get research experiences of all kinds, as there are several programs, internships, and study abroad opportunities that offer them.

Here are a few tips on how to find research opportunities as a medical student:

1. Consult Medical Schools and Universities 

Your medical school lecturers might be aware of any available research positions or they might be conducting research and require student interns.

2. Seek Advice From Clinical Mentors

Your clinical mentors or supervisors might be able to recommend research internships or programs that you can apply for.

3. Ask for Assistance from an Advisor

Advisors for medical schools or colleges can be a useful resource for finding research opportunities that fit your interests and career objectives.

4. Consider Studying Abroad

Study abroad programs, internships, and even full-time research jobs may necessitate a gap year or offer remote work options. Though the amount of time required can vary, amazing experiences can result.

5. Explore Summer Programs

Summer research internships are a great option for premed students or those searching for part-time work over the summer. There are several fantastic summer programs for high school students with medical school chances for those who wish to transfer from high school to medical school.

6. Keep in Touch With Your Past Research Advisors 

If you are a student with previous research experience, you might want to get in touch with your previous research supervisors for advice or more experience. If you are looking for verifiers and referees to ask for references or recommendation letters, research job supervisors are also an excellent area to look at.

What Kind of Research Do Medical Schools Prefer: Science or Non-Science?

That is a challenging question. The short answer is that it helps to have any research that demonstrates your interest and dedication and fits in with your application's topic. There are numerous levels to it, though. 

Science and lab research is likely the most popular kind of research among applicants, and medical schools highly respect it as well. Laboratory-based research is generally the route you should choose if science is your major in college. 

Having said that, medical schools will find it appealing if your major is in the social sciences or humanities and you participate in research pertaining to both your hobbies and your major.

After all, most universities take a holistic approach to admissions and seek out applicants who are highly educated and well-rounded. Outstanding candidates may have interdisciplinary and liberal arts backgrounds in their education.

Therefore, even though lab-based research is thought to be more reputable than social science research, admissions committees do not think so.

How Many Hours of Research Do I Need for Medical School?

You do not need to spend a minimum amount of hours in the lab because most medical schools do not demand research. 

You should not be alarmed by the large figures that many students report because many of them want to devote their whole gap year to research and because they have a specific area of interest in research that they wish to follow in the future.

Therefore, the amount of time you need to spend researching will mostly depend on your unique situation as well as other application-related factors.

Putting in extra hours of research could be a worthwhile investment for you, for instance, if you feel secure about your achievement thus far and have a high GPA.

But if your performance is not what you would like it to be, prioritize your studies over research. 

If the thought of taking a year off work to conduct research does not quite appeal to you, keep in mind that 500–800 hours of research throughout a semester or summer is more than sufficient to demonstrate your aptitude, dedication, and critical thinking skills.

Members of the admissions committee will be impressed by your commitment, which will also help your application stand out. 

Additionally, consider if you truly want to pursue research. You should not push yourself to conduct more research than is necessary if you are just conducting it for the application.

Tips for Making the Most of Your Medical Research as a Medical Student

Following our discussion on the value of research experience for med school applications, let us look at some advice on how to get the most out of your research experience! 

1. Possess Notable Research Background

Not only is significant research experience beneficial to your application, but it goes beyond this. 

Engaging with current initiatives, discoveries, and questions within your field of study is the ultimate aim of research, as it sets you up for future research endeavors during your graduate career.

2. Utilize Research as a Chance to Learn New Skills

Try your hardest to look at research experience as an opportunity to grow professionally and overcome obstacles that will help you achieve in all of your future undertakings rather than just a means of improving the appearance of your CV and application.

3. Be Clear With Your Objectives

Make sure the research topic is crystal clear to you and that you are aware of and interested in the findings or conclusions of the study before beginning your research hours. You will get off to a terrific start and gain excellent research experience right away if you do this.

4. Recognize the Project and Show Interest

When conducting research, make sure you give it your all to fully comprehend every aspect of it. You will not go far with shallow and pointless research experiences.

You will be asked questions concerning the study topic during the interview; to stand out from the competition, regardless of your degree of involvement, you must be concise, self-assured, and eloquent.

5. Consider Your Experience Carefully

Additionally, give the lab your whole attention. Consider treating your research contribution like a job: put in your best effort, arrive on time, conduct yourself in a professional manner, and so on.

6. Develop a Rapport With Your Supervisor

Another piece of advice for getting the most out of your research experience is to establish a rapport and working relationship with the professor or mentor who will be assisting you. 

Strong ties and relationships will provide you the chance to request a recommendation letter from your mentor.

Thus, try your hardest to leave a positive impression and take each hour seriously. By doing this, you will accomplish two goals at once: acquire research experience and solid recommendations.

Additional FAQs – Is Research an Extracurricular Activity for Medical School?

Does Clinical Experience Matter Less in Medical School Than Research Experience?


Many deans of admissions believe that clinical experience is just as valuable, if not more so, than research experience, despite the fact that the majority of applicants have research experience. 

Patient engagement is a vital component of the clinical experience and is unquestionably essential training for a lifetime career as a physician.

To ascertain whether research is something you would like to pursue in the future, you should obtain your first research experience as early in your undergraduate studies as possible. If it is something you're interested in, you should go for it because it will also make it simpler for you to get more research opportunities during your graduate studies.

Should I Take a Gap Year To Gain More Research Hours?

Having a gap year allows you to hone your application and concentrate entirely on the areas you wish to improve. The decision of whether or not it is worthwhile is based on your academic and personal circumstances.

Go for it if you have a genuine interest in research and want to pursue it. There is no set standard for what functions best, so don't feel obligated to follow that advice. You shouldn't feel compelled to take a gap year if the study you conducted throughout your undergraduate studies is satisfactory.

Can I Get Into Med School Without a Research Experience?


Most medical schools do not require research experience, and applicants who do not have it can still be admitted if they have a solid application. However, a robust scientific background should not be seen as a cover for subpar academic work.

Why is Research Important as a Medical Student?

Research is one of the fundamental abilities that medical students will acquire and carry into their future jobs. 

In addition to giving them a competitive edge in the employment market, research experience can help candidates get accepted into residency programs or become licensed physicians.

Does Having Published Research Matter in Medical School?

Including your name in written research records is a sign of publication, which is significant but unnecessary. 

Being the first author in a publication is not what we are talking about because it is impossible for an undergraduate student to do. Nonetheless, co-authoring any paper, poster, or presentation will help you establish your reputation.

Remember that publication is optional, so do not concentrate your efforts there. However, please discuss your interest in the publication experience with your mentor or professor, and they will help you along the way. Medical schools will be thrilled to see your involvement and hear about your accomplishments.

You're no longer alone on your journey to becoming a physician

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